Recently, I tried a grocery pick-up service in lieu of browsing in the store. I was a bit nervous about finding where I was supposed to be, about checking in, and about how it all works in general. I know, I know, I’m behind the times. But I enjoyed a positive experience. Everything was easy and clear. The signage was clear. The check in process was clear. The staff was incredibly helpful too.
A kind man who was loading orders in cars approached my window and asked me to confirm my name.
“LAWSON, “he said. There was a long pause. “Wow, that was the name of one of my grade school teachers. “
“Oh, really? I’m an educator too!”
Humored he replied, “Well, I graduated in 1980, young lady.”
I started doing the math. This man was 59 years old. And he still remembered the name of that grade school teacher. For better or worse, he knew it.
During that drive home, I started thinking through all of the names of my former teachers. I could remember most of them. But the names that came to life the most were the ones that deeply impacted me in positive and not so positive ways.
I can still remember my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Gardner. She was so nice and so fun! I felt like she really liked me. She was also REALLY talented at reading books aloud which I loved. One day, I wanted to talk to her while she was speaking with another teacher before class started. Surely she would rather be talking to me instead! I thought to myself. But I tried to wait patiently. I stood near them in the doorway. I figured my close proximity would give her a visual signal that I needed her. But her conversation continued. While I waited, I decided to practice some of my tap dancing moves.
Unfortunately, this is where things went a bit sideways for me and for Mrs. Gardner. She thought I was tapping my feet impatiently. She snapped for me to go back to my seat because “She was having a conversation.”
I was crushed. Oh no. That was not my intention at all. I felt small and misunderstood and sad that I had disappointed someone who I loved so much.
When her conversation finished, she came and found me. She apologized for snapping at me. I explained that I wasn’t tapping my feet with impatience. I was practicing my dance moves. I don’t know if she believed me or not, but she smiled, and I felt relieved that we were OK.
She apologized. To me. A nine year old. I saw a post on Instagram from The Calm Classroom that said, “Normalize apologizing to children.” I love that. When Mrs. Gardner apologized to me, she was centering my humanity. She was putting my emotional wellbeing before self. She was respecting me, and I knew it. She was instantly forgiven.
I’m thirty eight years old. I still remember that like it was yesterday. Just like that man at the grocery who remembered his teacher.
During this teacher appreciation week, as a profession, let’s appreciate our opportunity to do work that matters so deeply in the lives of children every day, Children become adults who carry how we made them feel in their hearts for the rest of their lives. That’s powerful. To matter that deeply in the lives of others. To matter that deeply in someone’s future. We can be daunted by that or we can see it has an opportunity to be the good.
We don’t have to be perfect to make a difference. We simply need to care deeply. And we need to keep trying.
What can you do this week to center the humanity of others?
How might you become a bit less focused on perfect execution and instead become more focused on human connection?
What will you do to make space for yourself, so you can create healthy spaces for others?